Saks Fifth Avenue, a luxury retailer, may be in some controversial hot water for how its counsel has chosen to respond to a discrimination lawsuit. Leyth Jamal, a former employee of Saks in Texas, is transgender and identifies as a female. Jamal alleges she was harassed and discriminated against because of her transgender identity.
According to the suit, Jamal was forced to use the men's restroom, was adamantly called “he,” and was told to separate her personal life and work life, meaning, she should act like a normal man at work. Saks bizarrely responded.
Saks mis-genders Jamal throughout their answers, referring to her as “he” and “him” and then only identifying Jamal as a female when quoting the original complaint, but still then adding a “[sic]” after it. Saks' attorneys go further to defend the company's actions by claiming that transgender and transsexual identity is not protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
While Title VII does not specifically name transgender identity in it, the Equal Opportunity Commission and Supreme Court have both concluded that “irrational sex stereotyping may qualify as discrimination ‘based on sex.'” Furthermore, the Justice Department has interpreted Title VII to include transgender identity.
Saks is essentially claiming that they have a legal right to terminate an employee for being transgender since they are not a protected class under existing employment law. Jamal's attorney, Jillian Weiss, told VICE news that “Saks can certainly raise the argument, but the answer has been yes, transgender people are typically protected.”
The outcome of this case will certainly be one to watch and may raise questions as to whether or not the transgender community is entitled to clearly written protections by state and federal governments.
Source: VICE News & Slate.com